Eden Hazard has become the most expensive transfer in the history of Real Madrid, passing the previous amount that they paid for Gareth Bale.
The Belgian international joined the club in 2019 from Chelsea for an initial fee of £88.3 million, which was less than they paid for Bale. However, the contract to sign him also included various add-ons and bonuses that would take the potential transfer fee up to a maximum of £150 million.
Although these have not all been achieved by any means, the total amount they have now paid for him is still now a club record. And that is without taking into account what he earns in wages.
Even the most optimistic Real fan would find it hard to argue that they have had value for their money.
A glittering career at Stamford Bridge
Hazard had joined Chelsea in 2012 from French side Lille and enjoyed a highly successful seven-year spell in West London. He helped the club win the Premier League twice, the FS Cup, and League Cup, and the Europa League on two occasions, and was named Premier League Player of the Season in 2014-2015.
Struggles in Spain
When Real paid all that money for him, they thought they were buying one of the best wide attacking players in Europe. But almost from the minute he has landed in Spain, he has struggled with injuries and form, and he has seldom replicated in a white shirt what he managed in the blue of Chelsea.
Seven goals in all that time is a meagre return on the investment made in him.
He has added two La Liga titles and a Champions League winners medal to his collection, but he was very much a bit part player in those achievements.
This season has been a microcosm of what has gone before. He has played less than 300 minutes in total in competitive fixtures and provided just one goal and one assist. And he has not played for the club for more than two months as he nurses yet another injury.
That has led to major speculation about his future, with reports that a meeting took place last month between him and club representatives.
However, all the indications are that Hazard intends to see out his contract which runs until 2024.
He and his family are settled in Madrid with his 10-year-old son enrolled in the club’s academy.
Why Hazard does not want to move
Apart from any personal reasons, Hazard is the highest paid player at Real at the moment and is aware that given his struggles for form he is unlikely to command anything like those sorts of wages elsewhere – unless he chooses to follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and head to the Middle East.
However, he is still only 32 years old, and may not be ready to step away just yet from what he considers top-level football.
Real have made no secret that they would like to move him on, but he is under no obligation to do so. If they chose to try and terminate his contract, that would be very expensive for them.
The Hazard situation exemplifies the risk to the buying club of paying big money for a player who subsequently does not work out for any reason.
Whilst they may quickly want to cut their losses, they can find themselves in the situation where a player finds himself so highly paid that he remains happy to sit on the bench or play with the reserves whilst he sees out his contract,
Dutch defender Winston Bogarde is a case often cited. He joined Chelsea in 2000 from Barcelona, astonished at the salary that he has being offered. He would only make nine appearances for them in four years, but he saw out his contract, happy to pick up his wages each week.
And Chelsea must be aware that there is a risk of history repeating itself. In the recent transfer window they not only signed players like Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk, but they have them eight-and-a-half-year contracts into the bargain.
Whilst that helped them circumvent Financial Fair Play regulations, the flip side is that if those transfers do not pan out, they could be paying the players long after they have ceased to have a useful life for them.
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